Since management decisions range from routine to strategic, information, knowledge, and wisdom must support the full spectrum. At the routine end in the lower left corner of Figure 1, decisions are supported by computer systems and control procedures. Here managers are protected in part from external uncertainty through the availability of information such as production volumes and customer preferences.

Figure 1 – Rational and Intuitive Zones in Decision Making

rational and intuitive zones in decision making

At this routine end of the spectrum, decision making remains primarily in the rational zone where analytical tools and techniques meet the need. As a result, the decision gap between what is needed and what is available is narrow. In these relatively well defined situations, the complementary intuitive zone plays a less significant role. But as we approach the strategic end of the spectrum at the upper left end of the figure, decision needs shift dramatically.

An international survey documented the significance of intuition for strategic decisions. Using a self-rating scale in a nine country study of intuition, the Institute of Management Development (IMD) found that 66 percent of managers considered themselves above average on intuition. At the executive level, this proportion increased to 73 percent.

For these executives, rational responses based only on information do not suffice for dealing with external factors that are fraught with uncertainty. To arrive at effective decisions in ambiguous situations, the intuitive zone is indispensable. As decisions become strategic, the gap between what is required and what is available increases rapidly forcing the executive into the intuitive zone. Here the wisdom of intuition in the large complements traditional reliance on knowledge from intuition in the small.

Intuition in the Small

Intuition in the small is implicit in the conventional approach to the role of intuition in decision making. Herbert Simon described intuition as "analyses frozen into habit and into the capacity for rapid response through recognition." He illustrated this concept with the example of chess masters who make decisions about moves with astonishing speed.

These intuitive moves reflect the retrieval of "tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands" of pieces of information stored in long-term memory. In a similar manner, he argued that intuition in management manifests in split-second decisions that draw on years of experience. His ideas clearly articulate the nature of intuition in the small.

To clarify the distinction, intuition in the small represents the unconscious retrieval of complex combinations of data. Although the result is a solution based on knowledge based on experience, its appearance is intuitive. The manager senses a new avenue for action and feels that it is right. In an example of intuition in the small, an experienced strategic consultant remarked:

When I don't have the answer to a particular question, I leave my brain to think about it. When I am driving down the highway or brushing my teeth, when I least expect it, the answer comes to me, and I know it is right.

He then pointed out that, in time, he was able to justify his gut feeling with the appropriate rational reasons. Yet, when he initially approached the issue from a rational perspective, the solutions he conceived were incomplete.

Intuition in the Large

The 1997 battle between chess grand master Gary Kasparov and IBM's Deep Blue computer suggests intuition in the small will eventually be replaced by sophisticated expert systems and ever increasing computing power. Though some were dismayed, we were delighted the computer won to focus attention on the differences between mind-based human and program-based computer decision making. We believe mind is infinitely more profound than what is represented by playing chess even at the grand master level. Conscious managers accessing intuition in the large cannot be replicated by non-conscious computers.

The final frontier between humans and computers exists in areas of uncertainty where personal experience alone will not bridge the decision gap. In situations beyond the scope of the most sophisticated machine intelligence, managers call on wisdom to envision the future and imagine the unknown. As expert systems increasingly replace intuition in the small, reliance on intuition in the large emerges as a significant management competency. We believe economic survival in the 21st century will rest less on the efficiency of retrieving analyses frozen into habit and more on the effectiveness of accessing wisdom on the fly.

Eastern philosophy offers a deeper understanding of wisdom than expert systems playing chess. Yogananda's ideas are representative: "Intuition is soul guidance, appearing naturally in man during those instants when his mind is calm. . . . that without distortion it may hear the infallible counsel of the Inner Voice." Carl Jung was explicit about accessing a source of knowing beyond personal experience: ". . . fusing body and mind together so that they form a unity. . . . this unity creates a psychological disposition which makes possible intuitions that transcend consciousness." In addition to Eastern ideas about intuitive knowing, we turn to disciplines where scientists are forging a dramatic shift in our understanding of the universe.

Box Feature – Where Can I Learn More?

Public fascination with intuition is evident in numerous books that explore the use of intuition in both personal and professional settings. Many libraries have their catalogs on the internet to search with your browser at home or the office. Check your local library or nearest public college or university for references. Use the term "intuition" in a subject search of the catalog. At our local library, we found 30 hits most of which were useful for personal exploration, and at our nearest public university, we obtained 50 hits of which half could be used for individual work. References in the psychology and social science subject areas are most likely to help you learn more about intuition.

The titles below suggest the scope of material you will find on the subject. [Follow the links in the second column to display the citation for anyone of these authors. Use your browser's back button to return to this table.]:

Weston Agor

Daniel Cappon

Marcia Emery

Philip Goldberg

Belleruth Naparstek

Jagdish Parikh

The Logic of Intuitive Decision Making

Intuition and Management

Intuition Workbook

The Intuitive Edge

Your Sixth Sense

Intuition: New Frontier of Management

Each author describes practical tools and techniques to help managers discover and understand their intuitive potential. There is some overlap in coverage among the books but many differences as well reflecting the diversity in approaches to developing intuitive knowing. From among these references or others that you find at your library, select an approach that suits your personal style.

Quantum Paradoxes

Physicists have written compellingly about the similarities between the tenets of mystical traditions and the implications of the quantum view of reality. Whether an object assumes the character of a particle or a wave depends on the method of observation. A visual example of the wave-particle alternation in perception can be seen observing a flock of birds. When they are in their wave way of behaving, they have a radically different pattern of movement compared to their particle way of acting.

When we observe several pigeons while they are feeding on the ground, they behave as "separate particles." But when they take flight, they become a "wave of connectedness." We can shift our attention back and forth between flight and feeding to see the contrasting behavior as they alternate between wave and particle patterns of expression. This visual metaphor captures the dramatically different styles in each way of behaving.

When we focus on matter as our primary reality, we behave as particles. And when we focus on mind as our essential nature, we behave as waves. But rather than particle or wave, we can view the birds and ourselves as "wavicles" that express our overt particle reality and our subtle wave behavior. Since our particle "doing" reality is compatible with everyday perception, it is easy to appreciate.

But on the complementary side, our wave "being" is harder to sense because it is not honored in business. We have a particle-matter nature when seen through the eyes of traditional science and a wave-mind quality when viewed from the mystical perspective. Behavior depends on the moment to moment choices we make about whether to access our wave or particle nature.

As particles, managers are rationally doing, as waves, they are intuitively being. As wavicles, managers are both. Doing not-doing transcends duality through the integration of rational doing and intuitive being. When managers express their wave way of being, the quantum paradoxes suggest startling possibilities. Through the web of connection in the psi field

  1. a manager's mind can be in more than one place at a time,
  2. a manager's mind can be somewhere else instantaneously without having gone from here to there,
  3. a manager can communicate with another mind instantaneously no matter how far apart they are in time and space, and
  4. things exist because managers' observations bring them into existence.

From the wave consciousness perspective, behavior that seemed inexplicable or impossible is commonplace.

For example, the president of a large, multinational insurance company in Puerto Rico acted in accord with the wave consciousness of mind in a strategic decision made within days of his transfer to Puerto Rico from Singapore:

When I started to evaluate the assets of the company, I noticed that we had a disproportionately large base of land and buildings and that made me uncomfortable. I asked around, and was told that in these parts that was a sound investment. I could not dispel my discomfort and made a widely unpopular decision to divest a large number of the building policies. Less than a year later, we were hit by a terrible hurricane . . . the company would have been in serious trouble if the buildings were still insured by us.

Assuming the wavicle dual reality, this executive's knowing beyond experience is an ordinary event in a radically revised world view. This example and interviews with executives reveal that intuition in the large as well as in the small are the twin companions of rationality. Since intuition complements rather than replaces the rational zone, understanding and using the full intuitive zone rounds out a manager's decision skills. These skills are shaped by factors that determine an individual's reliance on intuition small and large.

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